About Stanford Polo Club
Stanford Polo Club is made up of Stanford students who learn, practice, play, and compete in the sport of polo. The Club mounts both a men’s and women’s intercollegiate polo team, each of which competes against any of five other collegiate teams in the USPA Intercollegiate West region and approximately twenty-five other teams across the county.
Both undergraduates and graduate students at Stanford University are welcome to join the club, ride, and practice with us. However, only undergraduates are allowed to compete intercollegiately, and the club is largely focused around the development of the intercollegiate teams.
Recreational and professional polo is most often played on a large grass field that is regulation 300 yards long by 160 yards wide, with four players per team. When you think about it, that’s a lot of real estate. It’s bigger than nine football fields - three long, three wide. As any grounds keeper responsible for watering and mowing a polo field will tell you, it’s about 11 acres of grass to maintain. Fortunately, intercollegiate polo is not played on such a large grass field, but instead is played in an arena, not unlike a hockey rink with a dirt surface. Three players per side attempt to score on undefended goals located at either end of the regulation 150 feet wide by 300 feet long arena.
Interested in joining Stanford Polo? Please visit our Join page for more information.
What’s a Chukker?
A chukker (also spelled chukkar or chukkah) refers to a period of play in the game of polo. In field polo, a chukker is 7 minutes long, and there are typically six chukkers in a game (or occasionally eight depending on the tournament rules). In arena polo, each chukker is 7 and 1/2 minutes, and the game consists of only four chukkers.
Do you have to bring your horses when you travel to play other teams?
No. The home school usually provides the horses for a given game. If two schools are nearby or when tournaments are held, each school typically brings horses to contribute to the pool for all the teams competing.
Doesn’t the home school providing the horses lead to a significant home-field advantage? Can the schools keep the good horses while giving the visiting team the nags? Isn’t it unfair to have to ride horses you’re not accustomed to?
Intercollegiate polo utilizes a system known as the “split string” to eliminate a school from keeping the good horses for themselves, while giving the less desirable horses to the visiting team. (A string can refer to either those horses kept by a given individual or club, or the horses being used for a particular game. In this case, it’s the latter definition.) While there is somewhat of an advantage in knowing and having previously ridden the horses that will be played in a given game, the split string makes it economically feasible for intercollegiate teams to travel and compete against one another. Both teams playing the same horses evens the playing field, so to speak, allowing the skill, talent and teamwork of the squads to be the determining factors in the game. In the “real world” however, it’s every player’s string for themselves.
The split string requires that the teams trade horses between the 1st and 3rd chukkers, and the 2nd and 4th chukkers, respectively. Six horses are played in each chukker (remember it’s 3-on-3 in the arena). In the first chukker, Team “A” plays horses 1, 2, and 3, while Team “B” rides horses 4, 5, and 6. The horses rest during the second chukker, and the teams trade strings for the third chukker, resulting in Team “A” riding horses 4, 5, and 6, while Team “B” rides horses 1, 2, and 3. The same pattern is applied to the 2nd and 4th chukkers with horses 7-12.
Isn’t polo expensive?
Actually, yes. Non-collegiate polo players can spend a lot of money taking care of their horses and buying equipment, and the cost of running a polo club is quite high. One of the major advantages of playing polo in a university setting is that members have the opportunity to participate in the sport at a significantly lower cost than at almost any point for the rest of their lives. One of the reasons why we are able to provide this opportunity is that we receive significant funding from the university to help offset our expenses for horse care, facilities rental, and equipment maintenance. However, as the university’s endowment has declined in recent years, funding for all club sports has been reduced, and the polo club has been placed in an increasingly difficult position.
To offset this decrease in funding from the university, we have launched several fundraising initiatives to help stabilize our annual budget, including our Annual Alumni Tournament with Cal Poly coming up this fall. We will continue to offer membership to students at the lowest possible rate, and at $300 per quarter Stanford Polo is still a remarkably good deal, but it is likely that dues will increase over the next few years. We recognize that this represents a significant financial burden for some students, so if you are interested in joining but have questions about membership dues, feel free to contact our president. If you would like more information about giving to Stanford Polo, please see our Donate page.
Isn’t polo dangerous?
It can be, but on the whole collegiate polo is quite safe. Players acknowledge that the sport has the potential to be dangerous, but significant safeguards are in place to prevent injury. Players are required to wear helmets and some form of facial protection (either impact resistant goggles or a metal facemask) and most players wear extra protective gear in the form of kneepads and thick leather boots. Our coaches and senior club members supervise all riding and polo activities and match players with horses appropriate to their skill level to ensure a safe environment for all participants.
In polo, there are no “off sides” or illegal formations designed to equalize the game or make it more fair – rather, the rules in the sport of polo are designed primarily for the safety of the horse and rider. Dangerous situations and injuries usually result in a violation of the rules, and it is the responsibility of the two mounted umpires and the referee on the sidelines to maintain order on the field.